First Consulting adopts process mining for continuous improvement

26 January 2018 5 min. read
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While the amount of data available, both inside and outside companies, is constantly on the rise, its value is also increasingly acknowledged by organisations, as it is perceived more and more as ‘the new gold’. This does not mean, however, that organisations are realising the true value of data. Process Mining uses this data and creates insight into business processes, giving concrete opportunities for the continuous improvement of a company’s performance. Experts at First Consulting in the UK reflect on the power of Process Mining.

Process Mining creates insights to support continuous improvement

Process Mining is focused on supporting the sharp end of business operations. This includes helping to obtain real insight into customer processes; determining which deliveries take longer than desired and which departments have process bottlenecks; and creating propositions lead to the highest number of customer contacts. Additionally, from a compliance perspective, it offers information that was previously difficult to uncover or connect. Some working examples comprise of products/services that do not meet the agreed service levels, or are responsible for (customer) complaints; which departments do not perform the agreed checks and balances (e.g. four eyes principle); and finding how regions compare to one another (for benchmarking purposes)?

The figure below shows the difference between how a process is typically documented, the perception of employees on the ground, and how it works in real life.

Process documentation

Most managers have been raised with the well-known Accounting & Internal Control process book. This is also the basis for many audits to validate the quality of the processes involved. In practice, the process book is rarely, if ever, used after it is signed off. It also has limited use in training new staff members, because changes occur often and are not always incorporated in a timely manner. This leads to having a purely paper version of the truth. Process Mining enables a company to show the actual process as it is executed in all its varieties and it brings the paper version to life.

This clearly delivers much more value, enabling continuous insight and, as a result, further opportunities for improvement, while immediately allowing organisations to demonstrate the results of any improvements made.

The technique also facilitates process experimentation, prompting businesses to ask what is the commercial effect if they approach Group A through Channel ‘X’ and Group B through Channel ‘Y’? On top of that, it can also allow insights into departmental efficiency, or highlights which employees could benefit from additional training/support to continuously improve the company’s performance.

Such activities can be realised through the adherence to three key principles:

  1. Data driven: Use data to establish process performance (fact based). Don’t just act on gut instinct, but use data to confirm or disprove theories;
  2. Process focus: Always use this factual process as the starting point, instead of peoples’ opinions. Analyse how the process functions with adjacent processes to prevent suboptimal improvement;
  3. Results orientated: Stay results focused. Implement improvements iteratively, to be able to realise and celebrate short term milestones along your journey.

What: make significant steps with little means

Many organisations are not fully aware of the extent of their data, or the potential of that resource. Even where they do have a grasp of their data, they frequently argue that data quality is too poor to draw any conclusions. In practice, it frequently holds much more potential than organisations are aware of. It is First Consulting’s passion to help organisations maximise the potential of their data and use it to their benefit.

Continuous improvement cycle

The power of Process Mining lies in the fact that it only needs a limited amount of data to pinpoint areas for improvement. This can be illustrated using a real project example from an insurance company. By using a fragment of the administration log files (CaseID, TimeStamp, Activity) we visualised the process and subsequently eliminated process waste, for example by taking out double checks (the purpose of which nobody could remember) and reducing waiting time (by reducing steps that did not add any value from a customer’s perspective). The biggest gain, however, was that employees and team leads improved their knowledge and spoke about the way the process was executed and could be improved further. As a result, the internal lead time was reduced by 40%, with a corresponding increase in quality.

How: through a bottom-up approach, aimed at realising results

Data and applications are important tools, but the benefit they drive strongly depends on the way they are being applied within organisations. Having insight into the operational performance of processes also means insight into the performance of employees and managers. This can be perceived as a threat and sometimes drives resistance, which can manifest itself in delays to the overall change process. First Consulting champions the philosophy of improving the processes in conjunction with employees. To achieve that, the data is enriched with qualitative input from employees, providing more insight to the root causes and potential solutions.

In summary, to deploy Process Mining successfully it is essential to have insight into process flow variations, their rationale and finally, but most importantly, create and implement process improvements with the organisation. First Consulting prides themselves in not simply identifying potential improvements, but also in helping to realise this value for the organisation.

Related: First Consulting receives Expert Partner status from Mendix.